Balancing Writing and Family Life
The Writer Wednesdays Series
Hello Writer, and welcome back to my life.
It’s Writer Wednesday, the day I talk about the art and the business of writing, and tell you how I do what I do as an indie author.
Today’s question comes from my patron Dan M., who asked for advice on the balance between writing and the rest of your life.
How do you make people understand that "writing time" is work time?
You often look available for other people to ask for your time for their own needs. How do you make sure you get the time you need to write?
So this is a tough one for a LOT of authors. It was very tough for me for the first few years I was writing.
It’s less of an issue now, because this is my full-time job. I’m no longer writing exclusively at night or on the weekends, or with my wife running a daycare in our home.
But there are still times when I do want to work at night or on the weekends, and that can be really tough with three kids.
And it’s not just because they can be noisy. (Although to be clear: they can be noisy. Very noisy.)
It’s because I’m not JUST a writer. I’m a father. It’s my job to be a father. And being home without participating in family activities just feels wrong.
That’s without even contending with my significant other. Meghan fully supports my writing, and always has since the beginning. So there’s no conflict with her when it comes to getting writing time.
But that’s not the case for everyone. As Dan says in the question, writing time is not often seen as “real work” time by a lot of people, and that can include your own family.
The best way I can think of to solve this is by insisting that you get to have your own “alone time” and use that time to write.
You generally don’t get as much pushback this way. Even if your family doesn’t understand that writing time is work time, they tend to be a lot more understanding that everyone needs time to themselves. And you just happen to use that time to yourself to write.
However, sometimes that still isn’t enough. Sometimes you’ll find your alone time being broken into even if you’ve agreed that every night from 9:00 to 10:00 is alone time, because you’re still there, and you’re still available.
This can be particularly true if you don’t have a separate space. I have an office to work in. There is a door, and it has a lock. People can knock on the door, but they generally don’t.
But if your writing desk is in your living room, or your bedroom, you’re WAY more available, and much more likely to be interrupted, even during what’s supposed to be your writing time.
In that case, the best solution is usually to leave your house or apartment. Go to a local cafe and write from there.
Yes, you will look like the stereotypical writer forever working on their novel in the local coffee shop. But you will be able to WORK.
And the vast majority of strangers out there won’t come up and bug a total stranger who’s working on their computer, especially if you’ve got headphones or earbuds.
You can even wear them without playing any music, as a sort of "DO NOT DISTURB" sign.
And this is something I’m probably going to start doing in the future. Right now my weekends are pretty full up, but eventually I’m going to start using them for writing again.
Writing in the house during the weekend or weeknights is just much harder. The family is here, and even when they’re trying not to distract me, they make noise.
And when I take breaks from my writing and step outside the office, it’s like a dogpile. The kids see me and think work time is over and play time is now.
So, for at least a few hours on the weekends, I’ll be taking myself and my laptop to a coffee shop in town and doing some work from there.
Because listen: even if writing isn’t your job yet, if you don’t protect your writing time, you’ll never get to the point where it IS your job.
And just like at any job, you have to have a space where you have at least some guarantee of not being distracted.
There’s a reason employers prefer to have an office or some space for their employees to work. It’s not just because they want to keep an eye on everyone. It’s because when you’re at home, it’s a lot harder to keep focused on work as opposed to the things you’d normally do when you’re at home.
So, to recap: Get your family’s agreement to have some alone time, and clearly define when that alone time will be, and on what days. And spend that alone time in a place where you won’t be disturbed.
And if you keep getting distracted at home despite the rules, then go work in another space.
Thanks for the question, Dan! I hope the answer was helpful.
Reminder that my $5 patrons like Dan get these videos two weeks before everyone else, and they’re the only ones allowed to ask questions for me to answer in the series, so check out my Patreon if that sounds good to you.
Thank you so much for watching, thank you to my patrons for their incredible support, and I will see you next Wednesday. Byyye!